"ERSIJy OF GUEIPH LIBRARY 3 llflfl OlOBbbST S 11 U N 1 Kbo I KU DA S66.M98 1910 Mur se 1 1 , Wa 1 1 er Ar no 1 d Two on a tour <& Date due TWO ON A TOUR ' TWO ON A TOUR " BY WALTER A. MURSELL " Give the face of earth around, And the road before me." — R. L. Stevenson, Seconfc Edition PAISLEY: ALEXANDER GARDNER $ nbltaher bg S^woixdmtxd to the late Queen VUtori* LONDON: SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, HAMILTON, KENT & 00., LTD. PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY ALEXANDER GARDNER, LTD., PAISLEY THE LIBRARY UNIVERSITY OF GUEIPH To The Friend of Years and the Comrade of Many Journeys CONTENTS Prologue PAGE 9 The Tryst 21 The Glorious Twelfth 29 Over the Grampians ... 41 The Place of Mystery 51 The Highland Capital 6l Garve ... 69 Loch Maree 77 Gairloch 85 The Last Day ... 95 Epilogue 103 PROLOGUE " The quarrel is a very pretty quarrel as it stands ; we should only spoil it by trying to explain it." — Sheridan: "The Rivals." A SPRING MORNING IN ARC AD Y There's a wind among the tree-tops, There's a breeze upon the sea, And the cuckoo's voice is floating from the coppice on the hill; There's a sound of falling waters Where the streams are running free, And the mavis pipes a merry tune that sets the heart a-thrill; 'tis sweet to be a Rover when it's Spring in Arcady! I watch the soft clouds moving Across the open sky, And the white gulls dip and skim above the waters of the bay; I see the sunlight on the sail That slowly passes by, 1 hear the children's voices call upon the shore at play; 'tis joy to feel the Springtime in the Heart of Arcady! The primrose blooms upon the bank, The woods are rich with green, The air is filled with pleasant scents from fir-tree and from pine; A healing rest steals o'er the mind Where the strife of thought has been,, ** And the better side of Life begins to warm the heart Like wine; For who can think but hopefully when it's Spring in Arcady! I walk beside the sunlit sea With the friend of many years, And the lass I love is with me, who has made my life a song; We roam the woods together And throw aside our cares, With talk and play and merry jest we speed the hours along; O 'tis good to be a Lover when it's Spring in Arcady! PROLOGUE Yes, it was on a spring morning in Arcady that the Tour was hatched. Of course we had talked of it before, but our plans came to a head here. It was fitting that such an expedition should be arranged in so idyllic a spot. Our wives and families all flattered themselves that they had a hand in it. Minnehaha seriously warned Christopherson against riding down dangerous hills. Scheherezade — careful soul ! — was solicitous about our diet, and besought us not to exceed forty miles a day. Our children regarded us with mingled wonder and pity and amusement, as two elderly and plethoric persons who were desperately determined upon a trip to the ends of the earth. My youngest signalised the occasion by coming straight up from the sea and sitting down damp upon a considerable portion of our large scale-map, thus making the county of Inverness more mountainous than ever by reason of the bulbous blisters raised through the application of his moist person. Christopherson and I both made solemn promises, seeing that we 14 TWO ON A TOUR were so beloved of our wives, and our lives were of such exceeding value to the community; and we vowed to take the tenderest care of one another while upon our travels. We have had several tours together, and many episodes arise in my mind as I recall them. There is only one I shall mention here, for the conse- quences of it might have been such that all subsequent intercourse between us might have abruptly concluded, and this chronicle would never have been written. Scheherezade reminded us of the incident as we now sat on the green lawn, discussing our route to the accompaniment of a hundred thrushes' and blackbirds' songs. The episode was so unique in our experience that I shall set it down at length. I 'find in my diary for 19 , under Friday, August 9th, " Rode to Torrington, 44 miles." The record is bare, but it enshrines one of the rarest days. It is memorable if only for the fact that Christopherson and I very nearly — but I am anticipating. We had ridden the previous day from Sidmouth to Exeter, and had passed a night of horrors in a house that dated from the Middle Ages. The weather was sultry, and Exeter was stifling. The air seemed ex- hausted, and made breathing difficult and walking a torture. It was one of those days when you get a feeling of impending disaster. Having left our PROLOGUE 1 5 bicycles in the yard, we rested till nightfall, and then sallied forth for a stroll before turning in. The night was black and the air oppressive. We walked down by the canal. The lamps cast a sinister light upon the oily surface of the water; a mist hung like a curtain a few feet above it; a few ghostly figures flitted in and out of the mist on the banks. There was a muffled sound of oars somewhere in the drifting fog, and presently we came to a ferry. In the strange dim light the canal looked like the Styx, and the ferryman might have been Charon, and the passengers a group of shades. We were rowed across. We walked a mile down the other side ; but the vault above us was so dark, the water below us was so mysterious, the air was so suffocating, the houses were so grim and menacing that we retraced our steps to our lodging, called for our candles, and went to bed. And now our horrors began. The house was very old. The way into our bedroom was down a dark flight of steps like a descent into a well. Every board creaked. Mice scuttled about behind the walls. There was an oppressive smell, like a family vault. The window was wide open, but not a breath of air came in. The room was hot, stifling. The furniture was worm-riddled. The curtains and bed-hangings were moth-eaten. The candles threw weird shadows on walls and ceiling. 1 6 TWO ON A TOUR V I am sure something has happened in this room/* said Christopherson, " murder, or suicide, or something horrible." The same thought was in my mind. We went to bed, but not to sleep. Tossing, rolling, moaning, fitfully dozing, waking with a start listening to queer sounds — it was a nightmare of a business. We were men of few words next morning. The place had infected us with its black melancholy. I never rose in gloomier spirits ; I never set out on a day's ride with heavier forebodings. We left Exeter behind us, but it was not until we had been on the road a good two hours that our hearts began to beat and expand more freely and to lose their weight of depression. But then the air of Dart- moor began to fan our faces, and it was like the wine of the gods. Dartmoor is like nothing but itself. It rolls away in vast billows to the horizon. Its vital air breathes forth scents that fill the whole of space. The good red earth of Devon shows on its winding roads. But its colours — that is where the magic of Dartmoor lies. I never saw such a depth of purple as on its hills and in its distances. Again and again we stopped to look back at that extraordinary purple robe thrown about the shoulders of the huge Tors. Presently we came to Okehampton, and here we walked up on to the moor itself, and saw a great military camp PROLOGUE 17 speckling one of the hollows. Huge waggons and gun carriages were rumbling down the rough moorland roads. On the far heights bright flashes could be seen at intervals, and then a deep roar prolonged into solemn reverberations. The gunners were practising their deadly trade. Leaving Okehampton we still skirted the vast moor. At last, towards the end of the day, the road made a sudden descent into a deep valley, through which a river ran shining. A stone bridge crossed the river; at the other side a long, steep climb awaited us; then at the top — Torrington. And then — it happened ! It may have been the lingering effect of the Exeter bedroom; it may have been that the death-dealing instruments we had watched on the heights at Okehampton had depressed us; it may have been that the indescrib- able melancholy of the moor had entered into our souls ; it may have been that we were simply tired out with the heavy riding; the fact remains that when we dismounted in front of a promising- looking inn our tempers were of the shortest and snappiest. It has always fallen to my lot on these tours to negotiate with all landlords and land- ladies; Christopherson has always flatly refused, and I, with a meekness which I begin to think is my worst enemy, give way before him. But on this occasion I intended Christopherson to take his 1 8 TWO ON A TOUR turn. We stood outside the inn in the gathering dusk and wiped the perspiration from our dripping brows. " Now, then," said I, briskly, " in you go and see what you can do." " No," said Christopherson, " you go." " No," said I, " it's your turn this time." 11 Nonsense; get along in and make inquiries," said Christopherson. " I'm not going in," said I ; " you are going in." 14 I won't ! " said Christopherson. " Neither will I ! " Our voices during this brief passage-of-arms had been strained and distant. We leaned on our bicycles and glared at each other in a mixture of fierceness, contempt, and defiance. Christopherson has an awful eye when his blood is up ; it burned upon me now with the intensity of a pharos. When I saw that eye I knew in my heart it was all over, but I determined to make one more valiant effort. 11 Let go of your bike," I said, in the kind of tone one hears in South- side melodrama, "I'm going to hold it while you go in." " I will not let go of my bike," said Christo- pherson, standing doggedly in the middle of the road, " and I am going to hold yours while you go in." " Then we shall sleep in the street," said I. PROLOGUE 19 Christopherson said no more, but remained im- movable like Horatius keeping the bridge. I went in; I could do no other. But we ate our supper in silence, and it was not until "John Cotton " rose in fragrant wreaths from our respective briars that the ice in our bosoms melted and our frozen intercourse broke loose in the genial warmth of a common delight. " I ought to have gone in," said Christopherson now, when Scheherezade reminded him of this bygone estrangement. M Good man! " I cried. " It is a belated con- fession, but I here give thee absolution." "Always the best of friends, ain't us, Pip?" said Christopherson, who is a lover of Dickens. And I responded, " Wot larks ! " Before we separated, the tour was settled for the following year. THE TRYST 11 We met — 'twas in a crowd." —T. H. Bayly. " An agreeable companion on a journey is as good as a carriage." — Publius Syrus. THE TRYST ** The bicycle was made for man, not man for the bicycle." THIS pearl of wisdom fell from Christopherson's lips as he stepped from the train on to the platform of Waverley Station, Edinburgh, and grasped my hand. To a stranger the remark would have savoured of mystery, not to say insanity. As a greeting it seemed inappropriate, and as the beginning of talk between two men who had not met for six months, it appeared to lack coherence. But a twenty years' friendship needs no interpreter. We have an inveterate habit — Christopherson and I — of resuming the conversation of a year ago as if no space of time had intervened; when we meet after a year's absence we take up the thread with perfect naturalness at the point where it was previously dropped. Indeed, the thread has never really been dropped at all. It stretches invisibly through time and space, and though we often separate, we are never really severed. There is nothing else in the whole wide world quite like this wireless telegraphy of an intimate friendship. It has in it a suggestion of immortality. 24 TWO ON A TOUR As Christopherson dragged his bicycle from the van I nodded my head in solemn approval of his sententious utterance. " Epigram — proverb — trope," said I, taking out an imaginary note-book and pencil, " my tables — meet it is I set it down! " I had come over on my own machine to meet Christopherson, and we compared our steeds with satisfaction. We had resolved upon a week's tour, and this was the try sting-place. As we looked over our wheels with pride and affection, the happy memories of a score of rides rose up to greet us. Had our wheels been horses they would have pawed the earth impatiently, champed their bits, tossed their flowing manes, and snorted with feverish anticipation. The Spirit of the Road possessed us both as we climbed into our saddles. When that most blessed Spirit enters into a man he takes a new lease and a new grasp of life. He has closed his books, laid down his pen, shut his study or his office door, donned his holiday garb, and for the next few days he sees things in a golden haze of mystery and romance. The Road opens out before him, luring and beckoning; every hill- top is an apocalypse, every turning a surprise. Once in the saddle, and the day is a continuous adventure. Anything might happen. At such a moment I have an unquenchable contempt for the assertion that the age of miracles is past ; I know THE TRYST 25 it is just about to begin. He who is thoroughly possessed by the Spirit of the Road can no longer talk of his bicycle as a machine ; it is a dragon, an' albatross, a wind, a chariot of fire — anything that signifies life, vigour, movement, mystery. To talk of cranks, ball-bearings, pedals, tyres, brakes, is blasphemy. Even a puncture cannot wholly banish the poetry of the expedition. A head wind is much more likely to reduce it to solid prose But as Christopherson observes, " The bicycle was made for man, not man for the bicycle/' and that makes all the difference. The Spirit of the Road does not own slaves; he creates free men. So if we puncture we may groan, but we groan cheer- fully; if we encounter a head wind we may feel aggrieved, but it soon settles into an uproarious resignation; if we have to get off and walk a two- mile hill, we do it as part of the day's adventures and foot it stoutly up the steep. To some people this may seem a preposterous and even an im- possible frame of mind ; but they do not know the Spirit of the Road, they only know the Demon of Emulation. They want to break a record; they want to do a certain distance in a certain time; they have some ulterior motive that weighs upon them like impending fate; they have some other man's performances in their mind's eye, and they must reach a particular spot by the fraction of a 26 TWO ON A TOUR minute. In their case, man is made for the bicycle, and it becomes an obsession. As for us, we did not set out to break records, but merely to enjoy our- selves. We wanted to be in the open air, to feel the warm sun on our faces, to see the blue sky, the floating clouds, the green of the meadows, the yellowing corn, the strength of the hills. We did not travel for the sake of the arrival but for the sake of the travelling. It is the continuous going that makes the chief delight of a tour. We left Waverley behind us, turned out of Princes Street, and made for the Ferry at Granton. I dislike riding in towns; the stone " setts " jar one's whole body, and the traffic daunts one. The Spirit of the Road cannot be invoked under the shadow of tall tenements or in the crush of many vehicles ; he must be supplicated at the altar of a milestone where trees and hedges are green. A breeze was blowing from the Kingdom of Fife, and the waters of the Forth were blue and sparkling. The distances were clear, and Edinburgh began to look like a fairy city as the Ferry drew out across the Firth. The Forth Bridge seemed like some wondrous web spun across from shore to shore. As we watched, a train, small as a toy in the distance, threaded its way through that forest of steel. It is five miles across the Forth from Granton to Burnt- island, but so clear was the air that it looked more THE TRYST 27 like two. We reached Burntisland about half -past four, and began our ride at once on the Fifeshire side. The harbour at Burntisland was full of foreign ships — German, French, Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch — all come for coal. A number of boys were fishing in the harbour for mackerel with very primitive rods. A shoal had just gone in from the Firth, and we could see the silver of their scales breaking the surface of the water into diamonds in the shine of the sun. We went up the long hill leading over towards Kinross, and began our journey through the pleasant pastoral country that spread out before us like a map. A few small, smoky, and dirty towns lay black upon our route — Cowdenbeath, Kelty, Blairadam — blots upon the face of an otherwise fair landscape. By and by Loch Leven came in sight, and the evening sun changed the grey walls of Queen Mary's castle to gold. Some half-dozen boats were dotted about the Loch containing enthusiastic fishers, which reminds me — but I can't go into that just now. It was seven o'clock when we reached our destina- tion on the slopes of the Ochils after passing through the quiet town of Milnathort, and we did justice to a good supper. Our tour was to begin in earnest next day, and we ascended the hill after supper as the sun was setting, and walked on the open moor. The sky was clear, the distant moun- 28 TWO ON A TOUR tains were not too distinct, the sunset was golden and ruddy — everything pointed to a spell of fair weather. The stars were beginning to peep through a deep purple heaven as we wended our way homewards, and we slept that night with the sweet scent of the pines coming through the open window and mingling with our dreams. THE GLORIOUS TWELFTH " The world is a wheel." — Disraeli: " Endymion." "Nay, come; let's go together." — Shakespeare: "Hamlet." THE GLORIOUS TWELFTH THE morning of August the Twelfth broke with a grey sky, and it remained grey all day. But it was dry, and there was no wind, which, from a cycling point of view, was a substantial comfort. We could hear the shots of early sportsmen coming faintly from the distant moors as we prepared our steeds for the road. Our first disaster took place before we had started. I had blown up my tyres like drums on the previous evening, but now the back one was as flat as a pancake. Clearly a puncture. On examination it proved to be worse. I took it to Milnathort to get it "sorted," and the only possible repair was a new tube. This delayed out start, and we did not leave Milnathort till 11.30. By the way, the word which has most impressed me, as an Englishman living in Scotland, is that word "sort." Its impressiveness lies in its extraordinary adaptability. In England the word is used, but with a very limited scope; it is used most frequently, indeed almost solely, to describe the separation of things which have got mixed up ; as, for example, when a man speaks of " sorting " his 32 TWO ON A TOUR letters, meaning putting them into order. But here in Scotland the word is endowed with a positively miraculous ubiquity and agility. If you mend a broken teacup you " sort " it; if you put a bit of sticking-plaster on a cut finger you " sort M it; if you go to the dentist it is to get your teeth "sorted "; if you sew a rent in your breeks you " sort " them; if a lady " does " her back hair she " sorts " it; if a machine gets out of gear it must be " sorted "; if your own inside gets out of gear it too must be " sorted " ; and if you wish to convey the idea of appalling nemesis you exclaim, " I'll sort you ! " I know of no one word in England which can perform these miracles. It is the most nimble and versatile term I ever heard of. Custom cannot stale its infinite variety. — But I digress. We took the road to Perth, a fine smooth thoroughfare bordered with hedges, and with fields on either side. Christopherson was bursting with pride over a Sturmey-Archer three-speed gear with which his machine had been recently fitted, and for some distance his remarks exhaled an offensive superiority. My own is a two-speed gear, and Christopherson was inclined to commiseration. But then it is a " Sunbeam/' and that is the height of cycling luxury. As we came through Glen Farg the road descended gradually, and a mile of glorious free-wheeling took us out into beautiful THE GLORIOUS TWELFTH 33 open country full of ripening corn. It was in this enchanted ground that we were suddenly brought face to face with the difficulties of the Scottish accent. A man on a bicycle had rapidly over- hauled us, and dismounting from his machine he accosted us as we were standing to admire the view. He looked like a superior kind of labourer or mechanic. Bending a pair of honest blue eyes upon Christopherson, he said in rapid staccato, " Have ye got anallcon?" I have spelt the word exactly as it sounded, and I was uncertain whether it was an article of clothing or something to eat. Christopherson gazed at him in return, and ventured no reply. I have seldom seen him look more dumb foundered. The man repeated his request, and Christo- pherson turned a bewildered eye in my direction. " Anallcon! Anallcon!'' exclaimed the man, beginning to get a little excited. Suddenly a light broke upon me, and I said, with careful enunciation, " Is it an oil can you want?" 4 'Ay, ay, jist that — anallcon! " replied our friend, in evident relief. I lent him mine, and while he lubricated his wheels Christopherson wiped the moisture of embarrassment from his brow. 34 TWO ON A TOUR " Why on earth did he pronounce it all as one word?" he asked, when the man was gone. " It's merely a way some people have in Scotland/' said I ; " custom of the country. Clipping one's syllables saves a lot of time, and mangling the King's English comes easy. Thrift, thrift, Horatio, even in speech." It has been my lot of late to listen to some rather stinging and contemptuous diatribes against the horrors of the Scottish accent. I am not concerned (and I told Christopherson so with some warmth) to uphold the numerous vagaries of pronunciation and tricks of emphasis and erratic tones char- acteristic of the Scot, some of which are entirely indefensible; but I would humbly submit that his accent is not more open to objection than that belonging to some other parts of the United Kingdom. There are accents and accents. Of the Glasgow accent and dialect it is unbecoming to speak: it is the tongue neither of men nor of angels. But there are some Scottish accents which are as welcome to the ear as the music of a mountain stream or a woodland burn, especially when uttered by the lips of one of Caledonia's " bonnie lassies, O ! " I do not understand the prejudice of the average Southerner against the accent of the North; it is such a flagrant illustration of detecting the mote in THE GLORIOUS TWELFTH 35 our brother's eye while insensible to the beam in our own. It argues an insular and unsympathetic mind. I am always alert for the peculiarities of language and pronunciation; there are few more interesting studies. I have lived in various parts of these Islands, and although a Londoner born and bred — and mighty proud of the circumstance — I cannot disguise from myself the fact that the accent of the Cockney is the most vulgar and barbarous under the sun. The conscious drawl, the clipping and mangling of syllables, the total obliviousness to the music of expression, the ex- traordinary gymnastics performed by the aspirate, the nasal twang — these are but a few of the characteristics of the Metropolitan lingo. In the Midlands there is not so much peculiarity of accent as of phraseology, as when a man informs you that he " enjoys very bad health,' ' or informs you that yesterday he " done " something rather smart in the way of business. The Devonian has a dialect all his own, not by any means devoid of quaint beauty. In Lancashire and Yorkshire there is an approach to savagery in some of the dialects, so startlingly primitive and rude is the utterance. In conversation with some of the less educated classes, one almost needs to refer to a glossary. No, I don't think the Scot has any reason to be ashamed of his native accent as a whole. His 36 TWO ON A TOUR attention to the aspirate and his devotion to the letter " R " are matters entirely to be commended. On this wise did I discourse to Christopherson, the episode of the oil-can affording us matters of converse for several miles. We reached Perth about two o'clock, and the Fair City looked very lovely as we came down upon it over the hill and rode slowly through its avenues of splendid trees. We took our way to the Inches — beautiful green meadows bordering the River Tay, Here we lay on the bank of the rapidly- running river, and had a famous lunch off sandwiches and fruit. Christopherson began to grow envious of the folk who lived in those quiet houses across the river, whose smoothly shaven lawns swept down to the water's edge, where snug little boat-houses nestled under the shadow of the trees. Indeed, we scarcely saw a pretty cottage or a secluded garden anywhere without a longing for the country, and we discussed the possibilities of a tramp's life, and whether we might not with advantage exchange our present sedentary callings for the open road. In these reflective and expansive moments, we are always teeming with honest projects, and we have not quite yet made up our minds whether a market garden or a Punch and Judy show would provide the richest outlet for our energies. In any case, THE GLORIOUS TWELFTH 37 variety is the essence of life, and one of the most delightful of all the ages of man is vagabondage. We took the main road to the North, and continued our journey through scenery which was a perpetual charm to the eye and rest to the mind. The one and only drawback to the Tour was the motors. These were innumerable and intolerable. What with the stink of their petrol, the bray of their hooters, the pother of their dust, and the illimitable lordliness of their occupants, they added appreciably to the terrors of life. There is some- thing so infernally aggressive and provocative about them. Apart from this, however, our Tour was a continuous happiness. As we passed through Birnam we saw the famous wood named in " Macbeth," and a most wonderful avenue of trees in the grounds of the hotel. Soon after this we reached Dunkeld, and visited the beautiful ruins of the Cathedral. The trees in this neighbourhood are very striking; some of the oaks, yews, elms, beeches, firs, chestnuts on the Duke of Athole's estate are truly magnificent. The Cathedral dates from the twelfth century. The chancel was under- going restoration when we saw it, and is now being used for public worship. There is a wonderful glen to the left of the road between Dunkeld and Pitlochry, and several times I endangered my life by riding with my eyes behind me. In some places 38 TWO ON A TOUR the woods enveloped the road, and we sped through dark tunnels of living green, and had glimpses into dim, mysterious recesses where the deer moved stealthily through the glade. Pitlochry is a pleasant little town of substantial stone houses, with many hydros and hotels. It was evidently very full of visitors, and the streets were quite gay with movement and life. A number of athletic young women, clothed in tweeds and swinging golf clubs, bright of eye and tanned by wind and sun, filled the air with merry talk and laughter. Excellent shops on either side of the road; neat churches; business-like banks; carts, charabancs, motors, bicycles, carriages, perambulators, bath- chairs; it was quite a centre of civilisation, fashionable, genteel, select. Since we possessed none of these qualities we did not linger in Pitlochry, but took the road again after refresh- ment at a confectioner's which would have done no discredit to Glasgow or Edinburgh. The next place of call was Blair Athole, a prettier place than Pitlochry, but still too fashionable, genteel, and select for a couple of Bohemians like ourselves. I advised pushing on to Struan, where I knew there were no shops, no dashing coaches, no villas exuding respectability and Established Churchism, no distracting maids flourishing golf sticks; nothing but an inn, a post-office, a railway station, THE GLORIOUS TWELFTH 39 a roaring river, and the everlasting hills. It was 8.30 when we arrived at Struan, and the dusk was gathering. We had ridden fifty-eight miles, and were feeling tired and hungry. It is always my business to negotiate with the inn-keepers on these expeditions; Christopherson flatly declines to do so. As recorded in the Prologue, the nearest approach to a quarrel we ever had was on the head of this idiosyncrasy. The inn at Struan is very small; I should fancy a dozen persons would inconveniently overcrowd it. A girl answered my summons at the bell, and seemed to hesitate when I enquired if they could put up two travellers for the night. She said she " would see," and disappeared to the kitchen. In a few moments she returned and said they, were rather full but hoped we would not mind II sleeping out." I said, " Not a bit; is it far?" thinking that we were to be lodged at some neighbouring cottage. She said "No"; and with that she led me round through the tiny garden to the back of the inn, where was the most extraordinary collection of outhouses I ever saw in my life. They were planted everywhere among the cabbages and beans and peas, and had wooden walls and tin roofs. The girl opened the door of one of these huts and disclosed a bedroom, lit with one window and a 40 TWO ON A TOUR port-hole. Here we lodged for the night, with the window open wide to the cabbages on one side and the port-hole gazing at us like a gigantic eye somewhere near the roof. We formed a picturesque procession next morning at seven through the garden to the bathroom (in a costume approximately resembling that reported to have been worn in the Garden of Eden), breakfasted at eight, and before ten we had begun the long ascent of the Grampians. OVER THE GRAMPIANS "Over the hills and far away." — John Gay: " The Beggars' Opera. OVER THE GRAMPIANS The morning of August 1 3th dawned mistily, but by the time breakfast was disposed of the mist had cleared from the hills, and it became evident that we were in for a blazing day. Christopherson, who is always eloquent on the subject of early starts the night before, discovered a deck chair in the tiny garden in front of the Struan Inn, and here he threatened to become a fixture under the combined influences of a good breakfast, a pipe of John Cotton, the genial sun, and a comfortable disposal of his bulk in this seductive canvas. I could see him settling down into a state of ineffable content, and he would have preferred to be carried over the Grampians in a palanquin rather than bestride his bicycle and perspire over his pedals. A pleasant and friendly young man staying at the Inn fortunately cut short this meditative frame, and roused us up to go to see some fine falls in the vicinity. The spectacle of the falling water coming over the boulders with such a rush of foam, throwing up clouds of spray in which danced a 44 TWO ON A TOUR dozen rainbows, seemed to put new spirit into us, and by ten o'clock we were slowly grinding our way up the lower slopes of the Grampians. I never saw the Highlands looking more lovely. The sun poured out of a cloudless sky; every hill was sharply defined against the blue; the moor- land stretched away into enchanting distances ; the heather was a gorgeous purple, and spread itself over the mountain-sides like a robe. At the left hand of the road a narrow river ran merrily, its water sparkling in the sunshine, breaking into gleaming eddies, babbling over smooth, round stones, falling suddenly over little ledges with a deliriously cool sound; its company was most pleasant, and it filled the air for many a mile with its lively chatter. Here and there it glided into a deep pool with a dark surface through which the sun shone with a rich tawny splendour ; and as the day grew hotter, Christopherson, who has a mania for bathing, displayed an alarming yearning to disrobe himself there and then, and disport himself in one of these pools. We compromised matters later on by bathing our faces and hands in a tinkling burn by a stone bridge, where we rested, and smoked, and basked in the sun, and talked nonsense, and thought long, long thoughts. It is a hopeless task to attempt to describe the beauty of this wonderful road over the hills. The OVER THE GRAMPIANS 45 guide books and road books all advise the cyclist to do this journey by train; but no cyclist with a grain of self-respect will dream of taking the advice. I would not have missed those twenty miles from Struan to Dalwhinnie for worlds. It was the finest part of our whole route. Of course, we did it under ideal conditions, and that makes all the difference. But what scenery! What colours ! What air ! That magnificent air of the Highlands is like the wine of the gods ! You can walk or ride any distance in it, and never feel more than a pleasant lassitude; to feel tired is impossible. I believe there is a passage in Holy Writ in which a love-sick maiden speaks of her beloved coming to her skipping over the hills. I feel sure that her swain must have given this evidence of his ecstasy and agility somewhere between Dalnaspidal and Dalwhinnie. The air at that spot would put springs into any man's legs and a song in any man's heart. As we passed Dalnaspidal, we had a glimpse of Loch Garry in the distance, and I arranged (mentally and provisionally) to build my country cottage there when I retire from the active duties of life, and live to a patriarchal age, growing turnips, writing poems, publishing garrulous reminiscences, and drawing my old-age pension from successive Governments for centuries. There appears to be 46 TWO ON A TOUR no valid reason why anybody should die on these Delectable Mountains. It would seem to be more reasonable that he should emulate Elijah, and be transported to other realms in a chariot of fire. The trouble was that I made precisely similar arrangements for the future in at least a dozen different places. Who can pick and choose where all is so gloriously attractive? By the time we reached Dalwhinnie — the summit of the road — we had an appetite like a menagerie. After lunching, we strolled down to the shores of Loch Ericht, and lay on the heather beside the gleaming waters in a state of serene content. The strong air and the hot sun induced that exquisite condition of mind so exactly described by Stevenson as " the apotheosis of stupidity." Through half-closed eyes we watched the cattle come down to drink, blowing sweet breath through their shining nostrils ; the tiny steamer panting at the pier; the fishers sitting immovable in boats; the motors ploughing their way along the dusty, distant road; the peewits circling and hovering over the moor; the sportsmen appearing for a moment on the hill- top, like silhouettes against the blue sky, and then suddenly vanishing; the blue smoke of John Cotton curling up under our own noses — it was a state approaching Nirvana. If an earthquake had occurred, and the ground had OVER THE GRAMPIANS 47 opened to swallow us as it swallowed Dathan and Abiram (persons of melancholy but abiding fame), I verily believe we should have gone down into the abyss nodding our heads amicably at each other, wreathed in smiles of imperturbable satisfaction. I punctured again at Dalwhinnie, and the local postman came to the rescue. He did his job well, and, with most Christian self-denial, made no charge. I was so struck with this signal mark of favour that I warmly pressed his hand, and pressed something into it at the same time. We tore ourselves away from Dalwhinnie with infinite reluctance. A fair Highland lassie, with luxuriant auburn hair, stood at the gate of a garden next the Post Office to see us off. I believe she waved her handkerchief to Christopherson — who somehow always receives these marks of favour — as we rode away. It is his glowing eye and ingenuous smile that works the oracle, I fancy. The road still wound like a white ribbon through the hills, but the great ascent was over and the gradients were now short and easy, and much of the way was quite level. We passed through Newtonmore and bore down upon Kingussie. Kingussie was evidently overflowing with visitors, and two or three bevies of cycling damsels crowded us into the wall on one side of the road with no ceremony. This drew from Christopherson some D 48 TWO ON A TOUR rather caustic remarks about suffragettes, but under the genial influence of that intoxicating beverage, soda and milk, he soon recovered his customary gallantry. I bade him remember the fluttering 'kerchief at Dalwhinnie, whereat he sighed. The sun was now beginning to dip towards the west, and beautiful lights showed over the tops of the hills. We passed through a dense wood a few miles beyond Kingussie, and as dusk was rapidly falling we came in sight of a solitary loch. It is quite a small sheet of water, but it lies like a mirror at the ioot of considerable hills, which were reflected in it darkly as we halted by its shores. It looked so solitary and peaceful, and the evening light made it so magical and weird, and the tall fir trees near at hand were so mysterious with their depth of shadow, that Christopherson became quite pensive and poetical, and felt as, I opine, Longfellow must have felt when he wrote " The Psalm of Life." I might have felt the same but for the fact that I had just discovered an evil- looking nail, with a square impregnable head, firmly embedded in my front tyre. On making this discovery I never felt less Psalm-of-Life-like since I was born. I pointed it out to Christopherson, who was brute enough to break into a stentorian roar of laughter. The accursed nail and the OVER THE GRAMPIANS 49 blessed peace of the loch combined, determined our destiny for the night. The lights of an inn twinkled a few yards up the road, and we hung up our hats. The stuffed head of a magnificent Highland bull stared down at us from the parlour wall while we supped, and a stuffed eagle and a horned owl peered at us from a huge oak side- board. After supper we strolled down to the loch, and gave ourselves up to the enticements of tobacco and the sweet influences of the Pleiades. THE PLACE OF MYSTERY u O'er all there hung the shadow of a fear, A sense of mystery the spirit daunted, And said, as plain as whisper in the ear, The place is haunted. ,, — Hood; "The Haunted House/' THE PLACE OF MYSTERY Christopherson and I sat down upon a stone wall and gazed upon the lake. There was a profound silence, broken now and then by a rising trout or a sighing among the fir trees. Behind one of the high hills a silver moon was rising, and soon it flung a shimmering pathway across the waters of the loch. When we returned to the inn an hour later we found ourselves locked out, and the whole place plunged in darkness. After hammering at the door several times a gruff voice demanded through the keyhole who we were and what we wanted. With some difficulty we managed to assure our interlocutor that we were the two individuals who had already supped, and that we now wished to go to bed. There was a rattling of chains and a drawing of rusty bolts and the creaking of a key, and the door slowly opened and we were admitted. These sounds, combined with the gloom of the interior and the solitude of our surroundings, gave me an eerie and uncomfortable feeling. 54 TWO ON A TOUR There are some places that leave a weird and sinister impression on the mind, and this was one of them. It was literally a roadside inn, with no garden or space between the entrance and the highway, and I thought of Dick Turpin and Jack Sheppard. A story I had read long years before also returned to me in a flash, in which was a picture of a traveller lying asleep in a lonely inn, and a trap-door was open above his bed, through which a fierce face glared at the sleeper. When our candle was lit I held on to Christopherson's jacket as we mounted the groaning stairs. It was near midnight. The inn was full of dark, low rooms, gloomy alcoves, narrow passages, and a horrible array of rusty firelocks, blunderbusses, pistols and cutlasses hung on the wall immediately outside our bedroom door. I freely confess that the imminent neighbourhood of this arsenal had an ill effect upon my dreams. Our bedroom was as near the tiles as a bedroom well could be, and the ceiling was so low in that part of the room where my bed was that when I laid my head upon the pillow I felt as if I was balancing the chimney- stalk outside on the bridge of my nose. Christopherson made few remarks as we disrobed, but there was evidently a highwayman riding furiously in his excited imagination, for before getting into bed he built up such a barricade THE PLACE OF MYSTERY 55 of miscellaneous articles against the door that, if anyone had attempted an entry during the dead waste and middle of the night, there would have been a fall like the crash of doom. The railway ran just the other side of the road through a deep cutting, and every time a train passed, the house trembled and shook from garret to basement. The last sounds I heard as I fell into an uneasy slumber were a tough snore from Christopherson and the thunder of the Grampian express. The mystic influences of the night and the gloomy solitude of the inn still overshadowed us in the morning, and after paying our score we took the road again with a grim and determined expression upon our faces, like the warders in Hood's poem: — " Two stern-faced men set out from Lynn Through the cold and heavy mist." Our conversation was monosyllabic for some miles, and it was not until we had passed through the next village that we began to recover our spirits. The scenery here is pretty, but far tamer than what we had passed through on the previous day. Those glorious miles between Struan and Dalwhinnie had spoiled us, and made this quieter beauty seem quite ordinary and commonplace. Presently we arrived at Carr Bridge. Here we 56 TWO ON A TOUR purchased some delicious pears from the local grocer, and imbibed more of that heavy fluid, soda and milk. Christopherson wasted his substance most riotously on picture postcards in nearly every place we came to, and spent an inordinate amount of time in the post-office, writing affectionate messages to an extensively wide circle of friends and relations. At Carr Bridge I stood watching two boys fishing for nearly an hour, while Christopherson was scribbling everlastingly with his fountain pen in front of the post-office. The road rises steadily out of Carr Bridge, and the prospect begins to grow wilder and more romantic. It was a magnificent day, and we took things easily. A memorable spot in this day's ride was the Findhorn Bridge, with a fine view of the splendid railway viaduct over the river in the dis- tance. The Findhorn is a rapid, tawny-coloured stream, flowing just here through a wide expanse of green pastoral country between two lines of hills, thickly wooded. The water looked cool and inviting, so, leaving our steeds at a tiny shop the other side of the bridge, we descended to the level of the river, performed our ablutions, ate our pears, lay on the green bank watching the rising trout, and offered incense to the gods. Words cannot utter the delight of these interludes. Presently we passed through the picturesque THE PLACE OF MYSTERY 57 little village of May, and not long afterwards descended the hill to Daviot. There is a road here which branches off to the left, and takes the traveller into the glorious region of Loch Ruthven, Loch Choire, and Loch Duntelchaig — all three quite small lakes, but unspeakably beautiful, romantic, solitary. The mere passer-by might not be much impressed by them, but to stay a month in their neighbourhood, as I have done, is to feel that there is a Spirit in the place, brooding on the mountains, breathing on the moors, hovering invisible on the face of the waters, walking in this wild garden in the cool of the day. Christopherson and I had no time to take this road, so we turned to the right and went up over the hill to Drummossie Moor. They were cutting down fir trees here, and the resinous scent of the sawn wood filled the air. Soon we came to the brow of the steep hill that descends to Inverness, and we had over a couple of miles of magnificent free-wheeling down into the city. I consider Inverness to be the prettiest town I have seen in Scotland. It is not so impressive as Glasgow, nor so romantic as Edinburgh, nor so interesting as St. Andrews, nor so solidly substantial as Aberdeen (" that city of greed and granite," as Gilfillan once described it to my father) ; but Inverness has a fascination and a 58 TWO ON A TOUR charm which belongs to none of these. It has a warmer and homelier appearance than any other Scottish town I have ever seen. Its suburbs have trim, neat houses with pleasant gardens, after the English fashion, and it is commendably free from the tall tenements and cold, forbidding closes which so revolt my Southern soul. The glory of Inverness is the river. I never saw a river that runs with so prodigious a hurry to the sea or in so continuous a body : every drop of water from bank to bank seems to mean business, and hastens onward in the never-ceasing flow. Then there are the beautiful wooded Islands, and the many picturesque bridges, and the imposing church spires on the banks, and the charming houses and gardens that front the water, and the Castle looking down commandingly upon all. After dinner at the Royal Hotel — a most blessed and satisfactory haven — Christopherson and I strolled down to the riverside, and sat there for a long time watching the continuous flood. We had only ridden thirty-five miles to-day, and it was still early evening. A band was playing somewhere down among the Islands, and quite a concourse of pedestrians was setting that way. But Christopherson's eagle eye had caught an alluring advertisement of a miscellaneous Show, and thither we turned our steps. It was a remarkable enter- THE PLACE OF MYSTERY 59 tainment. Half the slides of the lantern exhibition appeared on the screen upside down and had to be reversed, and some of the living pictures stubbornly refused to behave themselves, and displayed nothing but a series of human legs, without bodies attached, wandering aimlessly and ludicrously about what purported to be an exhibition or a public park. There was a comedian — or at least a person so described upon the programme — who gave the most melancholy and depressing " turns " I ever witnessed. There was an attenuated lady who sang soprano, and a substantial lady who sang a strident contralto with an accent obviously derived from the east end of London, though her name it was Moira Mactavish, or words to that effect. This lady also made a second appearance, in abbreviated skirts of a Highland character, and danced reels and flings and strathspeys with demonic energy. This was the only exhilarating part of the show, and when the vigorous lady put one hand on her hip and the other in the air, and pointed her dainty toe, and twirled like a teetotum to the accompaniment of a downright Scottish air, I was so roused in spirit that I thought for the moment my name was Macgregor, and shouted " Hooch ! " in eldritch tones, and was immediately led forth by the scandalised Christopherson into the night. THE HIGHLAND CAPITAL v ' Fair weather coineth out of the North." -Job THE HIGHLAND CAPITAL We were extremely loth to leave Inverness. But our time was limited, to say nothing of our material resources, and we were compelled to push on. We lingered, however, as long as we could. Rain had fallen in the night, and fallen smartly too, and the roads were wet for the first and only time during the whole tour. Christopherson, therefore, de- clared his intention of postponing the start till eleven o'clock; and when Christopherson makes definite announcements of this sort they have all the force of a decree. It was Saturday, and the town was busy and animated. Scores of motors whirled through the streets; streams of tourists poured out of the station — the holiday season was in full swing. We made our way to a jeweller's, and purchased offerings for our respective wives, by way of some slight but wholly inadequate compensation for our prolonged absence. Thence we invaded a confectioner's, where we bought some exceedingly solid sandwiches for consumption on the road, which eventually proved of such paving- stone consistency that they could only be divided 64 TWO ON A TOUR by the aid of clasp-knives. These preparations completed, we bade a tearful farewell to the " Royal/* and headed our steeds for the road to Dingwall. It was cloudy when we started, but the air was fresh and sweet, and the clouds soon rolled away, and the sun shone warm and clear. The road for some miles skirts the shores of Beauly Firth. A fine tang of the sea came up to our nostrils on the breeze ; the pungent odour of sea-weed left by the newly-ebbed tide mingled with a score of other fresh and wholesome scents. When we breathed in this glorious air, so laden with the tonic of earth and sea, and filled our lungs with it, we shouted like schoolboys; and Christopherson, who on ordinary occasions cannot raise a note, was safely, delivered of a bar or two of that inspiriting ode, " The Massacre of Macpherson." In describing this part of our tour to my venerable father, I told him of this road by the sea out from Inverness, and he stoutly maintained that I must be dreaming, and that Inverness was nowhere near the coast. From which I inferred that his geography was deficient. It was useless to argue the matter, useless to present the evidence of our own eyes backed up by the equally convincing evidence of a map, useless to describe the locality. If my revered parent has made up THE HIGHLAND CAPITAL 65 his mind that a thing is so, why then, so it is. If he says Inverness is an inland town, it is an inland town, and there's an end on't. But Christopher son and I still have that sea-breeze in our lungs; and we are both prepared to take our solemn Davy — even to stake our immortal souls — that it greeted us ere we were five minutes out of the heart of Inverness. It is a glorious ride to Dingwall: broad roads, — smooth surfaces, long levels, easy declivities, exquisite glimpses of sea and land — a cyclist's paradise. Dingwall is a little market town, substantially built, and proud of its connection with Hector Macdonald, to whose memory there is a fine monument erected. I went into a green- grocer's and bought some pears. They were dear — twopence-halfpenny each — but they were large and most tempting. I purchased four, laid down a shilling and departed. When I got outside the door, I was troubled with a sense of something wrong. I was never strong on mental arithmetic, but on mature reflection I came to the conclusion that four pears at twopence - halfpenny each amounted to tenpence. My suspicions were con- firmed when by the aid of a stub of pencil I figured it out on an adjacent doorpost : they were tenpence. Turning back into the shop, I gently intimated my conviction to the salesman, and 66 TWO ON A TOUR reminded him I had given him a shilling. He also was not strong on mental arithmetic, and again I had recourse to the pencil. I convinced him of his error. He smiled, put his hand into the till, and handed me back my lawful " tuppence " with an embarrassed air. " Ye maun excuse me," he said, " I'm no' the real shopman here — he's awa' for his lunch!" There was something so naive and child-like about this that I felt quite guilty at receiving my change, his confusion was so genuine. A few miles further on we came to Strathpeffer, a most beautiful resort for persons in search of health and rest — a fashionable Spa, with fine hotels, great hydros, pleasure-gardens, concert- halls, band-stands, bath-chairs, and mineral springs. These last are, I believe, nauseous but invigorating, having the flavour (as Sam Welle r once asserted of the waters at Bath) of " warm flat-irons." They appear, however, to do some good, aided no doubt by a powerful imagination and the magnificent air ; for the beautiful English Church there is full of gifts bestowed upon it by grateful patients, and there is a naive circular in the porch, signed by the Canon in residence, setting forth the various wants of the church, and beseeching the good folk who have benefited by the warm flat-irons to supply the deficiences. It seems a pleasant notion, but a little singular, too ; and it THE HIGHLAND CAPITAL 67 would be interesting to have the history of the gifts — to know that here was a gouty stained-glass window and there a rheumatic altar-cloth; here a pair of dyspeptic candlesticks and there a liverish lectern; that this prie-dieu is associated with a stomachic complaint, and that collecting-box can trace its ancestry to influenza. If such a history were printed in a neat pamphlet and left in the pews, it might prove a great aid to devotion, and might be appropriately bound up with the Oxford Helps and the Thirty-Nine Articles. Soon after leaving Strathpeffer the road winds through some exquisite woods, where the growth reminds one of a jungle. There is abundance of bracken on either side, waving grasses, beautiful mosses, many wild flowers, and a great variety of trees. By and by we heard the subdued roar of falling water in the distance, and suddenly a clearing appeared on our right, and we looked through the intervening space to the Rogie Falls — a leap of white foam glittering in the sunshine, throwing up a cloud of spray, and spanned by a light bridge just below the fall. The sight of this falling water, framed like a picture in the green of the surrounding trees, looked like a scene upon the stage. So lovely was it, that we dismounted to feast our eyes upon it ; and as we watched, a dark object appeared momentarily against the white 68 TWO ON A TOUR foam, curved like a bow, and as suddenly vanished. It was a salmon trying to leap the fall. It was a memorable picture — the distant fall, the rushing river, the lovely trees, the glimpses of blue above, the carpet of living green below, the waving ferns, the nodding grasses, the leaping fish. We stood there entranced for several minutes, and spoke no word. We might have been in Fairyland. Another half-hour brought us to Loch Garve, and here we resolved to remain over the Sunday. Thirty-five miles was our record for to-day; we were fit and fresh, it was early evening, and we could have gone on for miles. But Garve was beautiful, and we were hungry; so having put up our steeds, we adjourned to the tiny river near the inn and ate as much of our paving-stone sandwiches as we could, and gave the residue to the fowls of the air. GARVE " What ! shut the Gardens ! lock the latticed gate ! Refuse the shilling and the Fellow's ticket! And hang a wooden notice up to state, 'On Sundays no admittance at this wicket!' The birds, the beasts, and all the reptile race Denied to friends and visitors till Monday! Now, really, this appears the common case Of putting too much Sabbath into Sunday — But what is your opinion, Mrs. Grundy?" — Hood: "An Open Question/ 7 GARVE Garve! It is not a beautiful name: but it falls soft and comfortable upon my ear, like a pleasant chime sounding through the luminous mists of memory. A certain Queen once declared that the name of ' 'Calais " would be found engraven on her heart : I fancy that if a surgical operation were performed upon Christopherson, "Garve " would be discovered in letters of flame within his manly breast. As we came slowly through the trees down the hill that skirts the loch, the lights of evening were lying quiet upon the hills and the water, and everything was steeped as it were in a wonderful stillness. We dismounted to survey this fair scene. Loch Garve is not extensive ; you can take it all in at a glance ; but it lies like a mirror in the heart of high hills, and the whole neighbourhood is one of singular charm. The railway runs between the road and the loch, but trains are few, and there is little to destroy the beauty or disturb the peace of the scene. In the cool of the evening Christopherson and I took a walk through some woods on the other side of the lake, where the deer moved stealthily in the shade of the trees, and rabbits swarmed by the hundred in the adjacent 72 TWO ON A TOUR fields. In the distance these fields looked as if their whole surface was alive. As we approached I thought these brown spots were heaps of mould flung up on the green by the moles : but as we drew nearer every brown patch suddenly took to flight, and vanished with extraordinary rapidity. The whole meadow was a twinkle of white tails. We sat late outside the Inn that Saturday night, discussing our ride, watching the lovely lights in the sky, and listening to the music of a piano well played by some young man in the drawing-room just above where we were sitting. The youth presently began to sing a love-song, and Christo- pherson fell almost into a state of coma through excess of sentiment. We were not sorry to have the Sunday's rest, and Garve is an ideal spot to rest in. A Sabbatic calm pervaded the place when we rose on Sunday morning. There were five or six other guests at the Inn ; two young men on a motor tour ; a young man cycling; an old gentleman of philosophic mien; a lady, who was addicted to the simple fruits of the earth, and her husband, whose beard descended in a foaming cascade to the middle button of his waistcoat, and who would have commanded instant reverence if he had spoken no word. But the opening of his lips broke the spell. He was a wealthy and genial vulgarian, and his GARVE 73 Cockney accent could have been cut with a knife. The breakfast table that Sunday morning was not enlivening. These people had been bright and human enough the night before, but the Sabbath seemed to wrap them in immitigable gloom. They bent over their porridge with graven-image solemnity, and the conversation was limited to " Please hand me the toast/' or " Be good enough to pass the salt/' The old gentleman of philo- sophic mien who sat at one end of the table was particularly depressing, and sighed so strongly and so frequently that I felt as if I were sitting in a draught. Outside, all Nature was gay: she had put on her best Sunday robe, and appeared to consider the day worthy of her brightest colours and her most golden sunshine. We escaped from the cordon of gloom around the breakfast table as soon as we could, and breathed more freely outside. We decided to take our cue from Nature, and be gay. I despair of conveying any idea of the incom- comparable glory of that day. We climbed a mountain on the right of the Inn, and spent the morning in ecstatic contemplation. At the summit we looked down upon the long narrow waters of Loch Luichart which wound like a blue serpent between the hills. The heather was a blaze of purple everywhere: we sank knee-deep into it as 7 4 TWO ON A TOUR we roamed the mountain side. High peaks showed in the distance all about us: we realised that we were in the very midst of the " Bens." Looking across on the Garve side of our mountain, the view was indescribably lovely. Loch Garve itself spread like a silver shield at the foot of the hills ; a tiny river ran into it at one end, winding like a shining ribbon through the valley. Farms and estates appeared here and there, but scarce a human being anywhere. Little Ben Wyvis rose just opposite, and to the left the hills and moors leading over to Poolewe and Ullapool. The Ullapool road stretched white through the valley, and disappeared over the hilltop in the distance. The hot sun, the blue sky, the sweet air, the slight haze giving a touch of mystery to the scene, the exquisite colours, the infinite peace, made up a morning of enchantment. The suggestion of dinner broke the spell. It seemed a profanation, but we were hungry, and after all one cannot dine on the horizon. We spent the afternoon by the side of the loch. We talked books, philosophy, theology, human nature, and had a reporter been present I might have been able to fill columns with the radiant result. Now and then a flight of wild ducks streamed across the lake; this and the musical ripple of the water against the stones on the shore were the only sounds that broke the GARVE 75 perfect silence. I cannot tell whether it was the tonic of the air and the ravishing beauty of the day, or the reaction from the awful solemnity of the breakfast and dinner table, but as the sun declined our spirits rose to concert pitch. Christopherson had set his heart on launching a log lying on the shore, and between us we set it afloat. We christened it the Dreadnought, and followed it up with a few torpedo boats. The day was a leaf out of our boyhood. When the evening descended upon Garve we sallied out for a final walk before turning in for for the night. I have seldom seen anything more beautiful than the approach of darkness in these mountain solitudes. The landscape changes like a dissolving view. Gradually the sharp outlines of the hills are softened; all definite shapes slowly melt into a background of purple twilight ; wreaths of mist begin to fill the hollows and trail across the peaks ; the tracks of sunset fade away, leaving a faint glow where the glory has been; stars appear one by one; silence clothes one like a robe. Few are the lights in human habitations. The houses themselves are few, and the people are early to rest. By ten o'clock not a light could be seen anywhere, and as we tramped along the deserted road we might have been the only people in the world. LOCH MAREE 'Land of the mountain and the flood." — Scott. LOCH MAREE The breakfast table at Garve Hotel was enlivened on Monday morning by the Cockney gentleman with the foaming beard. He was regaling us with anecdotes of the days when he resided in the royal town of Windsor. I think he would have us believe that he was persona grata at the Castle; at any rate he desired us to understand that he had received a bow all to himself from Queen Victoria. 11 I was in my motor car/' he said, "one mornin' near Windsor, when I saw a hout-rider comin* along the road. 'Alio, says I, 'ere comes the Queen! I pulled up the motor to the side of the road, for I knew 'Er Majesty didn't much like motors ; an' in a couple of minutes hup she comes in 'er carriage. I took off me 'at, and she looked straight at me an' bowed. So yer see I 'ad the Queen all to meself for a minute ! " The old gentleman grew so excited over this reminiscence that he choked over his porridge, and had to be thumped on the back by his wife to bring him round. After breakfast he strolled about the front of the Inn, and condescended to be facetious with a couple of gillies. It was 80 TWO ON A TOUR excruciating to hear him attempting the Scottish accent. " Well, Wullie, hae ye bin fushin'?" This in a Cockney twang was a treat for the angels. As for the other old gentleman, of philosophic mien, we met him as we were pushing our bicycles up the hill beyond the Inn. He greeted us warmly, and descanted on bicycle touring in an exordium, four heads, and an application. It was quite sermonic both in form and matter, and we were duly impressed. The gist of his remarks was that cycling was physically, intellectually, morally, and spiritually improving and elevating; which we naturally accepted as a high tribute to our appearance and demeanour. Our destination for the day's ride was Gairloch : forty-six miles from Garve. It was 9.45 when we bade farewell to Garve, and the sun shone upon us out of a cloudless sky. Had the road been of better quality, this would perhaps have been the greatest day of the tour. But the road was dry and dusty; its surface had been villainously ploughed up by motor traffic ; large stones lay on the top, and deep gravelly ruts nearly spilled us at intervals out of out saddles. It needed wary riding. It was dis- tinctly trying, for the scenery was magnificent, and our attention was largely taken up with watching the treacherous road. I wonder I came through the day with a whole iskin, for despite the road I could LOCH MAREE 81 not help looking back continually at the wonderful landscape we had passed. There was a spot by the river Fannich where we sat for half an hour entranced. The river roared and tumbled through an open stretch of wild moorland, then suddenly took a turn almost at right angles and plunged through a rocky gorge, where it ran straight for several yards and then disappeared from view in a tangle of woodland. Not a human being beside ourselves was to be seen. A superb stag passed through the wood close beside us. Christopher son, who is highly susceptible to beauty, scenic as well as human, sat on a fallen tree and gazed into the gorge like a man in a trance. I addressed several observations to him, but he was wrapt in poetic ecstasy, and vouchsafed no reply. A few miles beyond this we came to the long stretch that runs into Achnasheen. The wide valley on our left was a bright emerald; a tiny river ran like a silver thread through the green; the mountains on the far side of the valley were bathed in sunshine, brilliant in colour, mysterious with distance; the village of Achnasheen looked like a jewel set in a circlet of hills. A mile beyond here is Loch Rosque, and I never realised so keenly how great a change weather can make in a landscape. Four years previously Christopherson and I had passed over this same 82 TWO ON A TOUR ground, and had scarcely noticed Loch Rosque, for we were battling with wind and rain, and the mist brooded heavily over the hills and blotted them out. To-day the whole place was in a radiant glow of colour. The loch reflected the intense blue of the sky; a pleasant breeze rippled the water ; the mountains were covered with purple and green where heather and ferns predominated ; the sun blazed almost tropically and gave every- thing a burnished look. The long rise to the Queen's View at the head of Docherty Pass gave us some rare peeps of the beautiful road we had left behind. Now in front of us lay Loch Maree, flanked by superb mountains, of which Ben Slioch stands out bluff and bold on the right, going down in a sheer precipice to the water's edge. Christopherson had his share of puncturing now, and his bicycle was mended by the local blacksmith while we lunched at Kinlochewe. Blessed is the memory of Kinlochewe ! It gave us the best and cheapest lunch of our tour. Plenty reigned at that hospitable board; everything was clean, sweet, pleasant; hunger sharpened our appetites; the bitterness of certain former recollections was wiped out. We were jocund and gay when we set out again ; the conduct of Christopherson on the road skirting Loch Maree was of almost shocking hilarity. LOCH MAREE 83 There is a rise in the road going over to Gairloch where we sat in the glow of evening and looked back at Ben Slioch, and saw it cut in two by a wonderful scarf of white cloud; it was our last glimpse of Loch Maree and all its attendant glory. The rest of our day's ride was indescribably beautiful. The country here is wild, rugged, shaggy, mountainous; with rushing torrents and quiet lakes, wide moors and shady glens, rocky passes and black ravines, bleak uplands and gloomy woods — a marvellous medley of untamed loveliness and grandeur. We rode into Gairloch at seven. There in front was the glorious wide bay, the distant outline of Skye, and far away on the horizon a cloud which was the Hebrides. The sun was beginning to decline in a riot of gorgeous colours. An hour or so later, as we sat in front of the great Hotel looking over the bay, two young ladies were rapidly painting the wonderful sunset effects ; but the changes were so rapid, they must have found it a difficult task. By nine o'clock the sky behind the hills over seaward was glowing like copper, and the waters of the bay were dyed as with blood. GAIRLOCH 1 To bring such visionary scenes to pass One thing was requisite, and that was — money." —Hood: "A Black Job." " For I can raise no money by vile means." — Shakespeare: "Julius Ccesar." GAIRLOCH Our enjoyment of the beautiful evening at Gairloch was brought to a sudden and inglorious close. Our intention had been to leave Gairloch by the boat on Tuesday morning, and sail down to Oban. To our dismay, we found that the steamer only sailed three times a week — Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This left us with a very pretty problem to settle. We had financed ourselves for a week, and now here was an extra day to be got in. Christopherson and I paced the sands gloomily, plunged in the profoundest meditation. We are neither of us great at mental arithmetic or calculations of any kind, and we were staggered at the prospect before us. We discussed several alternatives, all of which were discarded, and we adjourned to the smoke-room of the hotel and covered several sheets of paper with figures, and looked up all manner of time-tables, and grew grey with intellectual concentration. We dis- cussed Tariff Reform in a very minute and practical fashion indeed. It might perhaps be well for all cyclists with a tour in prospect to study tariff cards in particular beforehand. This, indeed, 88 TWO ON A TOUR is one of the morals of this present trip. Had we but known before of certain matters in this direction, how much tribulation we might have been saved ! Had we but known, for instance, of the remarkably moderate tariff (which I have since seen), of the Pavilion Temperance Hotel in Dingwall, we should have left that delectable neighbourhood with a kindlier view of human nature. If Dingwall sees our faces again, we shall hold high revel in the Pavilion. However, here we were now, caught in the midst of a maze of arithmetical perplexity that threatened to turn our brains. At length light began to dawn out of darkness. We could do nothing but remain till Wednesday morning, and after all expenses had been allowed for, we found that, by joining forces and omitting table d'hote, we could both just get home again with a margin of ninepence. Having reached this cheering conclusion close upon midnight, we retired to rest in a state of great mental prostration, yet flushed with conquest. That Tuesday at Gairloch was a day of unalloyed delight. We rose at seven, and con- sulted with the waiter as to the propriety of two elderly gentlemen bathing from the beach without a tent or a machine. We gave him to understand in as delicate a way as we could that our appear- ance would be of a distinctly Adamic nature, as GAIRLOCH 89 we had no equipment whatsoever. He assured us that Gairloch would be able to stand the shock, and with towels round our necks and . . . "doublet all unbraced; No hat upon the head; our stockings fouled, Ungartered, and down-gyved to the ancle," we sallied forth. The morning was such an one as might have dawned on Eden. An azure sky, an azure sea, a blazing sun tempered by a pleasant wind, a fresh wholesome air that made the pulse to leap and the heart to sing, a landscape of exquisite beauty: this was Gairloch on that August day. The yellow sand was firm beneath our feet, and the waves rolled in with a deliciously cool, refreshing, dreamy sound, and left a line of white foam there. Our disrobing room was spacious indeed, and it was as the waiter had said — not a single soul was abroad at that hour, so there was no need for us to blush when we stepped into the water " all face," as the Indians say. Ah, the cool silver shock of that clear blue water ! It made the skin tingle in every pore. The rest of the morning was occupied with a walk to Loch Tollie, about three miles from the Hotel, a beautiful little lake among the mountains. The day was intensely hot, and to walk far was impossible without discomfort. There is a tiny 90 TWO ON A TOUR promontory that projects into Loch Tollie, and at the end of this we seated ourselves, and resigned ourselves to Nirvana. The beauty of the place and of the day soaked into us. I never saw a more exquisite blue than the waters of Loch Tollie that morning: it was so deep, yet so clear and radiant. Now and again the breeze rippled the surface, and tiny waves lapped idly on the stones at our feet. The whole scene was a feast of colour. Description is tedious and hopeless when attempting to reproduce ideal days and places and fellowships. On the way back to Gairloch we came upon a small pool by the roadside, into which a shallow stream emptied itself. As we were passing, a strong eddy agitated the surface, and looking into the clear water, we saw a single large trout swimming rapidly round and round, as if wondering how he had come to be so stranded and estranged from his fellows. Our shadows fell across the pool, and he instantly vanished under the overhanging bank. We tried to coax him out, to tickle him, to drive him up into the shallows, but he was proof against our blandishments, and finally retired into the dark hollow of the bank, where he prudently remained. The heather round this quiet pool was wonderful in its colour and profusion, and Christopherson and I each cut a big bunch to carry home with us. GAIRLOCH 91 There was great excitement in front of the hotel when we returned to lunch: there was shouting and laughter, waving of sticks and handkerchiefs ; visitors and fishermen and waiters and ostlers were all standing in a motley crowd gazing seawards. It was a regatta. It consisted of but one race, but it consumed the interest of all Gairloch. A small steam yacht was gaily bedecked with flags. This was the Commodore. A gun was fired: it was either the beginning or the ending of the first heat. It was a brief affair altogether, but it created huge excitement while it lasted, and it led to serious results. We were strolling down to the pier in the afternoon, when we came upon a knot of fishermen standing on a grassy knoll a few feet above the level of the beach. Two of them were in the centre glaring at each other with wild eyes, and clamorous with loud voices. The rest stood round and waited. One man was much older than the other, and had a grizzled beard. Both were more or less drunk, and had quarrelled over a bet on the race. The younger man was making fierce gesticulations, seizing the other every now and then by the shoulder, thumping him in the chest, shaking his fist under his nose. The altercation seemed likely to go on for ever, and we did not stay to see the end of it : but we learned afterwards that the affair had culminated in a short but 92 TWO ON A TOUR one-sided struggle, in which the younger man had knocked his antagonist down. The older man rolled right over the green bank on to the stones of the beach below, whence he emerged with a cut and bleeding countenance to take home to his wife. The only other excitement of the day was the arrival of the Gael from Oban. She was late, and glided over the smooth waters of the bay as the setting sun was again turning them into blood. There were not many passengers ; mostly tourists, who looked tired and hungry and glad to be at their journey's end. Christopherson was loud in his derision of a very staid and proper man, who made his appearance in a top hat and kid gloves, as if he were in Sauchiehall Street. It was with difficulty that I prevented Christopherson from accosting this person with profuse asseverations of mock friendship, and palming himself off as an old school chum. The crisis, however, was averted, and Christopherson lit a fresh pipe, descanted furiously upon the fashions, and nearly set the pier on fire by blowing some red-hot ashes out of his pipe in the energy of his explosive passion. The evening passed all too soon. It was our last day, and to-morrow we were to sail for home. The Gael was to start at 5.30 a.m., and we were to be roused from our slumbers at the unearthly hour of 4. 1 5 A.M. We went to bed betimes in view of this GAIRLOCH 93 early summons. The burning sun of that glorious day had made our skin glow like a furnace; we were like a couple of Red Indians. We slept profoundly that night. The heat had made us drowsy; the murmurous sound of the waves upon the shore made a dreamy lullaby. I knew no more till the Boots thundered at the door with distressing punctuality at 4.15 next morning, and it seemed as if I had only been asleep about ten minutes. THE LAST DAY "Time for us to go!" — Henley and Stevenson: David Pew in " Admiral Guinea: THE LAST DAY The last day ! It sounds mournful, and there is in our hearts the pathos of farewell. We are bidding goodbye to-day to the mountains, the moors, the sea, the air so much like wine, the tumbling rivers, the shining lochs, the quiet hamlets, the mysterious woods, the friendly Road. They seem to have been our travelling companions for so long. Worse still, we are bidding goodbye to each other. Nine illce lachrymce! Still, we have had what we have had. A new and beautiful chapter has been added to our experience. To go back home with melancholy faces would be black ingratitude. Besides, we still have ' 'health and a day" — enough, according to the Sage of Concord, to " make the pomp of empire ridiculous. " Moreover, we hope to meet again on some other day, on some other Road that goes " over the hills and far away." We have only been on the Road a week. It is incredible. It seems to us more like a month. To go on a tour with a congenial friend is to gain some inkling of the wondrous experience when " Time shall be no more." We have been away 98 TWO ON A TOUR from all that Time so indelibly impresses upon us — the grooves of routine, the stereotype of custom, the programme of familiar duty, the petty round of irritating tasks and cares, the foolish yet pompous luxuries of civilisation (save those that carried us — our pair of dainty Ariels), and in the absence of these things clocks and watches have lost their power to intimidate and terrorise; the tyranny of the hours has passed away. It is at least a temporary abdication. For a whole week the sun has stood still and the moon has stayed her course. This is one of the abiding miracles of Change. New scenes, new faces, new thoughts, new companionships create the world afresh for us. There is so much to see and hear, to enjoy and wonder at, that mechanical calculation is at an end. So far from taking no anxious thought for the morrow, we take none for to-day. We have been boys again, and though a boy often asks the time, it matters not to him what the time is or how it goes. Sufficient unto the day is the good thereof. But alas ! we know only too well what the time is at this particular moment: it is 4.15 A.M., and the faithful Boots has just cannonaded at our bedroom door; Christopherson has replied with a snore and I with a grunt; and then, as the cannonade gradually attains its crescendo, its THE LAST DAY 99 sinister meaning bursts through our drowsy brains, scattering their dreams like a cavalry charge. We simultaneously sit bolt upright in our respective beds, under a primary and profound impression that the Hotel is in flames or that the Day /of Judgment has arrived too soon. We sit glaring fiercely at each other across a few intervening yards of carpet and linoleum, remaining thus for several moments, as though each were threatening the other for this thunderous summons. The morning was chilly and raw. A thick white fog hung like a wooly curtain over the placid waters of the bay. The surrounding hills were invisible. It did not take us long to dress, to pack our touring bags, to take a preliminary breakfast, and to ride down to the pier. I was the first passenger that morning to arrive at the moorings of the Gael, and I found the sailors engaged in swabbing the decks. It looked a cold and Spartan process on that chill and foggy morning. In a few minutes we were all aboard, and the vessel steamed at half-speed through the bay, with the syren-whistle sending forth its dismal hoot at intervals — a sound that seemed to emphasise the rawness of the dawn and to drive it into the very marrow of our bones. As we drew slowly out, a trim white sailing yacht riding at anchor burst suddenly out of the mist, like some beautiful ioo TWO ON A TOUR phantom ship: a sailor was swabbing the deck; the master-owner was standing in his dressing- gown at the top of the cabin stairs; a lady in deshabille was close beside him; they all looked towards the passing steamer and waved their hands to us. " A bit thick/' cried the master to the captain on the bridge. An instant later the vessel was swallowed up in the mist. It had been like a picture or a vision, one of those rapid impressions one carries away in the mind, where it remains etched for ever on the memory. The mist did not disperse until after we had left Portree, where we took on a drove of over a hundred cattle. At last the wonderful peaks of the Skye mountains began to appear, and by the time we had reached Broadford the sun was driving the fog and cloud in every direction. We disembarked at Mallaig, having had a hundred miles of sailing, half of which were spoiled by the enveloping mist. There was no mistake about the sun at Mallaig. It burned quite tropically, and as our train steamed out of the station we had a glorious glimpse of the mountains of Rum and the Scaur of Eigg against a background of deep blue. The journey south by the West Highland Rail- way is incomparably the finest in this country. That day we travelled under conditions that made it sublime. I never saw the mountains look more THE LAST DAY 101 grand. At Fort William we could see the huge bulk of Ben Nevis from foot to summit, a sight not often seen. At the rear of the great mountain, in recesses where the sun did not penetrate for long, beautiful patches of snow gleamed with dazzling whiteness. Out over the moor at Rannoch the wonderful peak of Schiehallion stood like a triangle cut out of cardfoard. Every curve of the line gave us a fresh view. Christopherson was so overcome with the abnormally early rising and the strong sea air and the burning heat of the day that for the first forty miles of the journey he slumbered and slept. I would gladly have followed him into the land of dreams, for my eyes felt as if they had weights on them; but the panorama held me like a spell and I did not succumb. And now the evening draws in, and a sunset of extraordinary splendour broke from behind the mountains at the head of Loch Long, and smouldered on the rugged ridge of the Cobbler. Glasgow at last, and civilisation : the smell of the Clyde and the clatter of the streets assailed our senses: the air of Buchanan Street was not so sweet as the breeze on the heights of Dalwhinnie. And after Glasgow — Paisley ! It sounds like an echo of the line, " And after that — the Dark ! " but it were infamy to suggest a parallel. Still it was dark when we arrived, and we reached our deserted house — 102 TWO ON A TOUR closed for the month — and slept in it with a curiously mingled sense of comfort, desolation, and — awe. Had we been seen by the police making our midnight entry, we might have found explana- tion difficult. But it was our haven of rest for the night, and we issued forth in the morning without being arrested, and parted " in silence and tears." EPILOGUE 'The dog will have his day." — Shakespeare: " Hamlet." EPILOGUE It is a singular and ominous circumstance that all the mishaps I have had while cycling have been intimately associated with dogs. Christopherson says that this is a sure and certain prophecy of my future destiny; but I pay no attention to such vulgar and gratuitous insinuations. More than any man I have reason to understand the apostolic injunction to " Beware of dogs." A cyclist has many possible sources of annoyance of an animal kind. The worst animal he has to contend with is the Road Hog, but the dog is a close second. The dust, recklessness, reek, and bad manners of the one is almost equalled by the pugnacity and aggressive wrong-headedness of the other. Fowls are bad to meet; they wander aimlessly about, seeking what they may devour; and instead of getting out of the way at your approach they seem to expect a way of escape by fluttering and clucking a yard or two ahead of your machine in a state of rampant terror. Sheep are very objectionable; it almost invariably means a dis- mount. Pigs are more negotiable, but cows are 106 TWO ON A TOUR inconceivably distressing. A cow stops and gazes at you with hanging head and great mild eyes; then she wags her head from side to side in provoking uncertainty; then she will drift diagonally across the road, and while you are making subtle efforts to dodge her erratic move- ments she will again drift diagonally to the same side as yourself, and present herself sideways to your advancing wheel. If you slide past withou(t a bump from one of the creature's numerous knobs or a switch of her tail you may count yourself fortunate: it may be wisest to descend till the danger is past. But you are at the mercy of a dog; you never know what a dog is going to do. It is seized with sudden ideas and possessed of all manner of whims and fancies. My first accident was in a street not a hundred miles from here. A soiled mongrel crossed my track in the very centre of the traffic, and before I could swerve aside I had gone right over him. I fell off, and the brute howled, and a crowd gathered ; no injury was sustained on either side ; only we both suffered from wounded feelings and a certain loss of dignity. Another time I was riding with Christopherson at the coast, and two dogs rushed suddenly out of a garden gate by the road side. My front wheel caught one of them in the rear, and I rolled heavily into the dust on my EPILOGUE 107 left shoulder. The dog lifted up his voice in protest, and Christopherson, who was leisurely trundling along in my wake, hastened to the rescue and arrived panting. "Are you hurt?" was his first question, for which I was grateful; for that was not the first question asked by Scheherezade when I related the episode to her. She said, in a voice full of imperfectly suppressed emotion, " Did you hurt the dog?" And this in spite of the fact that Priscilla, with the exaggerated emphasis of childhood, had already informed her that " Dad had fallen off his bicycle — and run over a dog — and Dad had torn all the tops of his fingers off — and came in covered with dust — and — and the blood was pouring down his hand — and — !!!" Let the sympathy of Christopherson be reckoned to him for righteousness. He will need it by and by. But the worst dog mishap I had was on the road to Arisaig. Ah, what a road it was ! Quite the worst road I have yet ridden on in Scotland, but it runs through Paradise. I would risk life and limb there again any time for the sake of the scenery we saw that day. When Christopherson and I rode over it, the road had evidently not been used for many weeks, or possibly months. Grass grew green and thick in the centre, and in one place was a large tree blown down by a storm right across the track, and we had to lift our bicycles over it. 108 TWO ON A TOUR From its appearance it might have lain there for years. We had left Prince Charlie's monument at the head of lovely Loch Shiel with infinite reluct- ance. Christopherson, who is a Cornishman born and bred, and a Southron of the Southrons to boot, had become so infected with the romance of the spot, and was so inoculated with the spirit of Prince Charlie, that he began to see imaginary warriors coming down over the heights, clad in flaming tartans and brandishing claymores. He had his notebook on his knee wherein to indite a ballad full of " Hoochs " and other guttural exclamations indicative of patriotism and daring. We mounted the steep and stony road slowly, with many a glance behind. It was a mile or two from here that misfortune dogged me once more. I was ahead of Christopherson, and was descending a hill with a surface like a torrent bed, when I turned a sharp corner. Instantly a loud barking was heard. I looked up and saw a tiny white house a few yards back from the road, and a woman vainly trying to hold in a wiry Scotch terrier by the scruff of the neck. Strangers are so few on that road that the dog was vastly excited at our unexpected appearance, and as soon as he saw me he broke from the woman's hold, dashed across the strip of garden in front of the house, made straight for my right leg, which was nearest him, EPILOGUE 109 and froze on to my ankle with a set of very- excellent teeth. There was a shriek from the woman, a shout of dismay from Christopherson, an exclamation of woe from myself, and then a yelp from the dog as I shook him off and gave him a smart parting kick on the nose. I could not stop, being in the very middle of a steep descent, but rode on to the foot of the hill, where was a clear running stream with a small stone bridge over it. Here I dismounted, and with some pain pulled off my shoe and stocking. The skin was broken where the dog's teeth had met through the thick wool of the stocking, and my ankle was bruised and bloody. I bathed it in the stream, being nearly eaten alive by the swarms of midges the while; the cool running water cleansed the wound and eased the smart, and with Christopherson's aid I bound it up with a wet strip torn from a handker- chief; I felt sure I should have hydrophobia; but Christopherson said I could not be madder than I was already, and offered to take me to some friendly asylum if he should observe me beginning to foam at the mouth. Who can describe the rest of that day's ride? The road was unspeakably bad, but the magnifi- cence of the huge bare mountains crowned with toppling crags, and the quiet beauty of calm lochs that mirrored them in their clear depths made us 909293 no TWO ON A TOUR forget all discomfort. I have seldom seen such colours as we saw that day, especially as the sun dipped toward the west and began to go down in a fiery splendour. Heather and bracken were lit up with extraordinary brilliance. Had such colours been wrought into a picture, one would have pronounced them exaggerated, unnatural, impossible. But there are no pigments on any painter's palate fit to compare with those we saw on the road to Arisaig. As we rode slowly along the solitary shores of Loch Ailort, the water was so permeated with the red sunset glow that it looked like a lake of blood. As we drew nearer to Arisaig the road led through a dense wood, and after sundown it was like midnight in this shaggy shade. I had no lamp, but Chris topherson lit his and took the lead, and it was strange to see him going on ahead like some mysterious fire-fly flitting in and out among the thickly-growing trees. It was near eleven when we reached our journey's end, and we were tired and hungry. But the memory of that day's ride will never fade, and when I hear folk speak of certain pictures as unreal and untrue to Nature, I shall think of the sunset flare upon the mountain heather on the road to Arisaig, and of the blood-red waters of Loch Ailort.